Sport NBA Playoffs 2021: Devin Booker and Chris Paul sink Denver Nuggets as Phoenix Suns take commanding 3-0 lead
Devin Booker: Phoenix Suns star guard is rising to the occasion in first-ever playoff series
Devin Booker's talent was never denied, but it was questioned if it could contribute to winning basketball. During a breakout playoff-series debut, in which he has LeBron James on the brink of first-round elimination for the first time in his career, Booker has elevated his play on the brightest stage the NBA has to offer.The then-20-year-old set the basketball world ablaze by scoring the most points in a game since Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance back in 2006, but with Booker's efforts coming in a loss, criticism still rained down on the emerging star's big day.
The Phoenix Suns are one game away from the Western Conference finals.
In the latest clinical performance from Monty Williams' squad, the back court duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul once again starred to lead Phoenix to the 116-102 win.
The third quarter proved pivotal once more, with a 31-21 period breaking the game open for the Suns.
Booker's stunning debut run continues
Booker has been waiting for this opportunity since entering the league. A chance to show his talents under the bright lights of playoff basketball.
The 24-year-old was averaging 27.1 points across his first eight postseason appearances, with his Game 3 total of 28 topping that number.
NBA Playoffs 2021: Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets series preview
The Suns and Nuggets played one of the most competitive season series, but Denver will enter without key rotation players in Jamal Murray, Will Barton and PJ Dozier. Can the MVP favourite in Nikola Jokic help the shorthanded Nuggets make a series of this?Now, both young teams face-off in the Conference Semifinals, the third straight for the Nuggets but the first since 2010 for the Suns.
The backcourt of Booker and Paul outscored Denver's starting pair of Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo 55-11.
Oh no he's not, oh no...
... OH YES, HE IS— Phoenix Suns (@Suns)
Clinic in the midrange
You can all picture it vividly.
Chris Paul with the ball in hand, dribbles to his right around a screen with a big man dropping back. Smooth as you like he pulls up and rises from the midrange to hit nothing but net.
Paul was at it again in Game 3, hitting midrange jumpers on repeat including two from the right elbow to confirm Denver's demise. As the home crowd groaned in frustration, Paul walked to the bench with his shooting hand raised, in the ultimate dagger celebration.
Ballin' at Ball Arena
NBA Playoffs 2021: Devin Booker was thinking of Kobe Bryant after 47-point performance in series-clincher against Lakers
"I know he was here tonight. I know he was in the building and I know that he's proud," Booker said postgame sharing his thoughts when he put his hands together and looked upwards [at Bryant's retired jerseys at STAPLES] while walking off the floor into the tunnel. "Kind of about what we just went through, the postseason and being legendary and taking the steps to get there." 'Be Legendary' was the message the late great Kobe Bryant shared with Booker as he handed the youngster his Nike Kobe 11 sneakers after the duo's last meeting during Bryant's final season in the league.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns)
Paul finished the night with 27 points and eight assists. He now has 34 assists and just three turnovers for the series in combination with his total of 30 fourth quarter points on 12-for-13 from the field. Ridiculous.
Chris Paul in the 4th quarter this series:
(h/t— StatMuse (@statmuse) )
Jokic hampered but not slowed
Presented with the trophy in front of the fans pregame, the Denver crowd showered Jokic with MVP chants throughout the first half.
Those chants turned to silence during the second quarter, when a Jokic tip-in resulted in the Serbian turning his ankle on the foot of Booker on landing.
Taking a moment to compose himself on the floor, the big man would stay on the floor to the relief of the home crowd.
????????????— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets)
As it has for many of the Nuggets' losses this postseason, it felt like Jokic was tasked with carrying the entire offence, with a fatigued MVP seemingly running out of gas in the fourth quarter.
NBA Playoffs 2021: Chris Paul dominates and Phoenix Suns race out to a 2-0 series lead over Denver Nuggets
For the second consecutive game, the Phoenix Suns used a third quarter blitz to rock the Denver Nuggets. Led by Chris Paul, the Suns blew out the Nuggets after halftime and now take a commanding 2-0 lead as the series moves to Denver.The Phoenix Suns blew out the Denver Nuggets 123-98 in Game 2, dominating on both ends of the floor led by stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
It was another monumental individual performance from Jokic, finishing with 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. The statline added his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history with a 30/20/10 game in the postseason.
Nikola Jokic gave it his all.
He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history with a 30/20/10 playoff game.— StatMuse (@statmuse)
When Torry Craig was traded to the Suns for cash considerations from the Milwaukee Bucks little was made of the move.
An important rotation player on the Nuggets in recent years, Craig failed to crack the rotation with the Bucks, but has quickly become an important piece of the bench in Phoenix.
Craig scored all five of his points in the first half, playing 14 minutes in his role off the bench and once again adding excellent perimeter defence to the lineup.
A key acquisition via trade, Aaron Gordon's play with the Nuggets has been inconsistent since he joined the club.
League Pass Alert: One Play - Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul will pick your drop coverage apart
A shoulder injury limited Chris Paul in the first round, but he's been firing on all cylinders against Denver in the second round. That much was clear down the stretch of Game 3 when the Point God put on a pick-and-roll clinic to put the Suns one win away from the Western Conference Finals.Today, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul takes the spotlight.
Initially hoped to be a key tool in the Denver offence alongside Jamal Murray, the expectations for Gordon significanty rose when the point guard went down with a torn ACL.
With that in mind, Denver managed to withstand a scoreless first half on 0-for-7 shooting from the former Orlando forward to trail 59-55 at the half.
It didn't get much better after the break, with the athletic forward tallying just four points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Jokic finished with 32 points in Game 3, while the rest of the Denver starters combined for 30.
A famiiar situation for Denver
Denver is no stranger to finding themselves in a deep hole during a playoff series. Pulling off two comebacks from 3-1 down in last year's playoffs, the task is even greater this time around, with the Nugges now facing the challenge of being the first team in NBA history to come back from trailing 3-0 in a best of seven series. Teams with a 3-0 lead are 142-0 all-time.
The Nuggets won't have long to wait to keep their season alive, with just one night off ahead of Game 4 that will once again be played at Ball Arena in Denver.
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NBA Playoffs 2021: Phoenix Suns focus on their 'brand of basketball' amidst recent Chris Paul adversity .
After going relatively unscathed through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Suns face adversity with the possible absence of Chris Paul for the start of the Conference Finals. However, the team is focused on its "brand of basketball," and how can the Suns hold on until Paul returns?With the addition of Chris Paul in the offseason, nearly everybody expected the franchise to rise from the ashes of the past decade.